The Hurdle of Depression
I remember one morning I was to speak to the chapel at Baylor University. I was afraid that morning, so I began to pray. "Lord, give me a verse of comfort to free me from my fears."
You have never spoken to me in an audible voice, Lord, but I do hear You in Scripture. You spoke to me that morning, clearly. You answered, "Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear..." (Isaiah 8:13).
I thought You hadn't answered me. "But Lord, I asked You to take away my fears, and You've given me a new one. How about another verse?"
I was wrong, of course. When I properly establish the priorities of fear, strive only to please You, I am then released from the panic of punishment and disciplined by the productivity of Your direction. Thank You, Lord.
I pray in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
The other day I called one of the most productive Christians I know. "How are you?" I asked, thinking it was a somewhat needless question. She was always fine, and had nineteen Scripture verses to prove it!
I didn't get her usual answer, though. Instead I got a
long pause, and then words all capsulated in one breath.
"Oh, Jeannette, I'm awful! I've been so depressed I don't know what to do. I've had to quit teaching my Bible classes. I'm not doing anything. I don't go out, I don't see anybody. It's all I can do just to get up in the morning, and some days I can't even do that. I'm so ashamed of myself I don't think I can stand it!"
This was no erratic spiritual novice; this was a mighty Christian soldier! I had seen her in action and praised God for her accuracy as she taught or counseled. My heart hurt for her. This dear friend was not only down in the depths, but ashamed of herself for being there.
I became very clinical. "Are you eating a lot of sugar? Are you overtired? Are you taking sulfa drugs?" She seemed taken aback by my questions, but I have learned there are many different reasons for depression, and some of them are physical.
Then I asked my friend about the condition of her prayer life was she aware of hidden resentment? of disobedience? There was nothing that surfaced before my considerably less-then-professional eye, and I decided to doff my counselor's cap for the more likely bonnet of a friend.
How we love to grip the believer's spiritual pulse with our untrained fingers and rattle off our diagnosis. Then, as patients, we frequently offer far more curiosity as to what the disease is than in how to cure it. That's why some books have become best sellers they tell people the names of their ailments. If naming it is curing it, there would be no need for drugstores!
I wonder if all the justified popularity of lay counseling has endangered some of the basics of our spontaneous feelings for one another. We don't talk anymore, we "Communicate." We never tell somebody something, we "Share." We react from our study manuals instead of from our hearts. Sometimes we become so sure of the text on relationship that we've missed the context of honest contact.
God forgive me the times I've cheated my friends, trying to satisfy some imagined assignment rather than be myself! That's a trap satanically laid for a lot of public speakers. We are so used to handing out services we forget to be fellow servants. I hate to think of the times I have doled out advice and dispassionate counsel when what was asked of me was love and prayers!
Fortunately, my house has a smoothly running thermostat designed to correct such false temperature readings. It is called a husband. Someone asked me how I managed to survive the sudden popularity that followed The Hiding Place, and I answered without hesitation: "Lorraine."
Even with his masterful understanding, it is often very difficult. After having listened attentively to the needs of disturbed strangers, I am prone to counsel my own husband, who neither needs nor appreciates it!
I thought of this as I sympathized with my depressed friend on the telephone. She had not inadvertently gotten her line crossed with "Dial-an-analyst," she was admitting a painful condition to a friend. I think the most helpful thing I offered her was that I
was not shocked. Surprised a little, but not shocked.
Any Christian who is truly shocked by another Christian's depression has not dealt honestly with the possibility of her own. I was no more shocked than I am when I learn that a friend has hay fever. Depression is a lot like hay fever almost everyone has it, but no one knows what to do about it.
After sharing tears with my friend, I did offer two quick dispensings of advice. I am not a professional counselor and do not hesitate to recommend one when I think it is needed, but I feel two principles offer successful first aid to depression-suffering Christians. They may even be the cardinal rules for survival.
Principle one: Depression is temporary! If you are subject to attacks of depression, tape a sign to your closet door, or embroider it onto the pillow into which you cry. It is temporary do not make any long-term decisions under the influence of a short-term condition!
The well-quoted lady who always bought a new dress whenever she was depressed must have a closet full of hideous clothes, all reminding her of her depression! Depression is indeed real. It is tragic. It is paralyzing, it is contagious, it is every horrible thing you may imagine it to be, but it is temporary! The devil would have you believe that depression is permanent, eternal, unique, and that there is no way out from under it. Those are all lies! Refute them between your tears, if you must but refute them.
Principle two: Depression is redeemable. God never wastes anything. He is the Glorious Scavenger!
If released to Him, every tear, every sob, every shudder of shaking shoulders can be productive!
I knew my friend's tears beyond God's attention. God knows the worth of our weepings. Think about that the next time you're crying. God knows just how many tears come from a broken and contrite heart (and how many do not!) The fact of God's unfaltering economy of suffering has done me more good that waterproof mascara.
After talking to my friend, I found myself thinking a lot about depression, especially in the life of the believer, who may have thought it disproved the belief. The believer in Christ has a means of dealing with depression victoriously, but he certainly is not immune to it.
The trickiest point for the depressed Christian is that someone with a handsome face but a demonic accent told him to say nothing about it and it would go away. The Christian is never depressed, no sir! The Christian is a happy fellow. See how he smiles. See how he prays for those less fortunate ones who know downs instead of ups. See him give his testimony. See him cut his throat!
If you are not a Christian, or are a very new one, you may be put off by my friendly reference to depression. Even if it is bad psychology to introduce a discouraging word here on the fringe of your birthday party, believe me, the principles of overcoming frustration, guilt, and disappointment will do you far more good than all the left-over paper hats.
On the other hand, if you are a Christian with time
accredited to your record, you may be delighted by this chapter. It may even be that you have just tripped in your joyous running and are now lying face down in the mire of unfulfilled commitments to righteousness. You may have seen all the saints passing you by without giving you a second glance and wondered why none of those loving brethren saw fit to warn you of the true conditions of the track!
At this point, you may have convinced yourself that you really don't want to run anyway, and that the roadside gutter is a lot like a fiftieth birthday once you get over the shock of it, it's really not so bad.
Well, friend, there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that God has no intention of allowing you to adjust to the gutter, no matter how rough it is getting back in the running. The good news is that God had already done the hard part and provided you with principles to get you going again. Those principles were carried out by noble characters who faltered long before you.
If the tour guide points out all the homes of the track stars, you'll find three of special interest. They are not exactly homes they're tents. Each one is different, but all three are definitely off the track.
One is a little smaller than the others, and has certain touches here and there of femininity. The usual basic tent flap is adorned by fading embroidered curtains, the tent itself is pink, with matching poles. It is a lady's tent. A lovely lady named Hannah, whose feet longed to dance even though they were hobbled by clogs designed only for walking. Hannah stumbled in frustration.
The middle tent is quite ornate. It is made of purple velvet, appropriately weatherproofed, adorned with the woven gold insignia of a king a very great king. David, the king of Israel, whose marching feet found the deadly detour of guilt.
The far one under the juniper tree is made of coarse heavy material that looks like sackcloth, the rough cloth of a prophet. It belongs to Elijah, whose leaping path is marked by prints slimy with disappointment. Things were not all that he expected them to be!
There is one thing common to all the off-the-track, out-of-the-race lodgings: They are all empty. Quite empty. No one is in them, because God gave each of the owners principles to get them to run, even with feet of depression's clay.
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